Shooting among airborne incidents

TOM HUNT
Last updated 05:00 10/01/2013
Murray Job

A helicopter crashed at the Auckland Viaduct while putting up a Christmas tree in 2011.

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Shots were fired at a skydiving plane near Queenstown, leaving a bullet hole in the aircraft.

Police said noise complaints about aircraft in the area made the same day as the shooting in October 2011 could be related.

The shooting, which did not result in any injuries, was one of 77 serious or critical events involving aircraft that were reported to the Civil Aviation Authority in the year to October 2012.

Information on the mishaps was provided under the Official Information Act, and include near misses by hot air balloons in the months following the fatal Carterton crash.

The 4-millimetre bullet hole on the underside of the skydiving plane was noticed after it had flown several morning flights.

A CAA spokesman confirmed police investigations revealed a topdressing aircraft had made fertiliser drops near where the skydiving plane was operating.

"The police inquiry revealed noise complaints had been made. It is thought the shot was made in relation to this."

Police yesterday confirmed the shooting incident had been reported to them, but said there was not enough information to base an inquiry on.

The Queenstown skydiving operator Nzone did not return calls last night.

Two hot air balloons were involved in near misses in the months after the fatal January 2012 crash in Carterton that killed 11 people.

In March 2012, Christchurch's Balloon Adventures Up, Up and Away took 18 passengers above North Canterbury for an early morning flight.

The pilot landed too far down a paddock and instead of skidding into a deer fence they took off again and brushed pine trees, which punctured the balloon. It landed up to six paddocks away.

The balloon's basket tipped over on landing and, while the operator had no injuries reported, passenger Savannah Hyssong, said she was terrified.

There were screams of panic, including from a 7-year-old girl whose father had been hit on the head by a branch, she said. "We all landed on our backs. It was insane. It was freaky, scary as hell."

At the time a spokesman for Up, Up and Away said the flight "met with a more challenging landing than normal", but the experienced pilot dealt with the situation in a "competent and professional manner".

The company would not comment yesterday.

In February 2012, a hot air balloon flew close to Waikato Hospital before drifting away to the south. Deteriorating weather meant the pilot, who eventually made a safe landing, had to fly lower than normal, the CAA said.

Kiwi Balloon Company owner Mark Brown, whose company did not operate the balloon in the incident, was flying that day and said the pilot was young and had panicked.

AIR MISHAPS

October 2011: A doctor is being winched from a helicopter when the wire detaches. The doctor had to be lifted from the rescue site.

A passenger suffers serious injuries when disembarking from a helicopter about 2.5 metres off the ground.

November 2011: Helicopter rotor blades strike support wires while installing a Christmas tree on the Auckland waterfront.

December 2011: A helicopter tips over after taking off while still refuelling. January 2012: Balloon strikes power lines near Carterton and crashes, killing 11 people.

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April 2012: A crew member on a ship fractures pelvis when a 700 kilogram generator being winched in by a helicopter pins him to the deck.

April 2012: A control stick breaks off in a pilot's hand while top dressing. Pilot lands using other controls.

May 2012: A helicopter becomes overdue from a weed-spraying operation. The wreckage is found later at the bottom of Lake Sumner.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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